Alison M. Jones Photography:
Recommended Books: France & Portugal

Mont St. Michel

Mont Saint Michel and trekkers coming across the Bay from the north side.


BOOKS on Paris, Mont St. Michel, and the Massif Central of France garnered from my two-week trip there this May with my architect-to-be daughter! There are obviously many, many wonderful books on all things French – this is merely a soupcon of fun reading.

Adams, Henry. Mont Saint Michel and Chartres. New York: Limited Editions Club, 1957 (first published 1905!). This classic on some of the most classic edifices in the world is based on Adams’ astute observation that “Architecture is the expression of energy.”

Boyer, Marie-France. Village Voices: French Country Life. London: Thames & Hudson, 1999. This photographically illustrated book is a charming behind-the-scenes depiction of local French décor, shops, simple hotel rooms, and rural daily life.

house with plants

Aveyron rural village home covered with wisteria and spring blooms.

Goodman, Richard. French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. A New York gardener shares with readers the path to his French harvest of lettuce, tomatoes, lima beans, cucumbers, cabbage, herbs and sunflowers – which in turn yielded an intimacy with his Gallic neighbors.

Huntley, Jennifer. Eight Days in Provence. Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Rosalie Ink Publications, 2004. Written by a former classmate, this book is full of the intimate details of my favorite areas of Provence, as well as of her eight days. I regret I didn’t have the same eight days in Provence. She’s done an excellent job coordinating her photos with Van Gogh quotes! Maybe some day she and I can do a project together with my photos and her story.…

Mandel, Barbara. The Visitor’s Guide to France: Massif Central. Edison, NJ: Hunter Publishing Inc., 1990. A where-to-go, what-to-do, what-to-see in this relatively unknown, unexplored region of France – where the culture and local lore and products are as strongly unique as are those of Provence, but foreign tourists haven’t discovered and overwhelmed.

Maxwell, William. The Chateau. New York; Vintage Books, 1971. A wise voice limns Americans’ interactions and reactions to a war-torn France where lack of amenities is compensated for by the mystery of French personalities. This romantic novel is quite suggestive of a modern update of Henry James’ stories of Americans abroad.

If you read intermediate French and want to “brush up,” this is a trio of charming books that are also memorably lovely films:
    Pagnol, Marcel. La gloire de mon pere. Paris, Editions de Fallois, 1988.
    Pagnol, Marcel. Jean de Florette. Paris, Editions de Fallois, 1988.
    Pagnol, Marcel. Manon des sources. Paris, Editions de Fallois, 1988.

Ratonnat, Jean-Francois. La vie d’autrefois en Aveyron. France: L’Editions Sud Ouest, 1999. This recounting of the daily lives of glove makers, dairy farmers, and market vendors around the turn of the century is in French, however the historic photos that accompany the text makes this small book a treasure for anyone visiting the Aveyron or other areas of the Massif Central.

Rosenblum, Mort. The Secret Life of the Seine. New York; Addison-Wesley, 1994. This will make you want to spend your next vacation enjoying this famed river of light on a péniche, or maybe become a marinier (freshwater sailor, bargee) for the next two years. For terriens (landlubbers), a péniche is a river barge, historically wooden-hulled and drawn by horses, but now metal and diesel-powered.

Williams, Ellen. The Historic Restaurants of Paris: A Guide to Century-old Cafés, Bistros and Gourmet Food Shops. New York: The Little Bookroom, 2002. This is a delight to leaf through whether for more quirky details of the history of Paris or for a memorable spot to indulge in oysters or chocolate truffles.


Chocolates on Rue de St Pere on the Left Bank.

Books By French Photographers

Cartier-Bresson, Aigner, Atget, and Kertész are known worldwide for their timeless images of France, so I feel no need to list the many collections published of their work. However, the books below are by two of my favorite French photographers who focus on faces, homes, industry, and daily lives of their countrymen. (Both Boubat and Ronis are black-and-white photographers.)

Boubat, Edouard. Amoureux de Paris. Paris: Hors Collection, 1993.

Boubat, Edouard. Comme avec une femme. Paris: Hors Collection, 1994.

Boubat, Edouard. Donne-moi quelque chose qui ne meure pas. Text by Christian Bobin. Paris: Editions Gallinard, 1996.

Ronis, Willy. Derriere l’objectif: Photos et Propos. Paris: Editions Hoebeke, 2001.

Ronis, Willy. Quand je serais grand. Paris: Hors Collection, 1993.

Ronis, Willy. Un village en France: Les cahiers de la photographie de Saint-Benoit-de-Sault. Text by Didier Daeninckx. France: Argenton-sur-Creuse, 1998. (St-Benoit-de-Sault is on the northern border of the Massif Central between Berry and Limousin, 3 hours from Paris.) This book was very difficult to find and I owe great thanks to my dear friend Bob in Lyon for finally finding a copy for me.

Sioen, Gerard. Provence: plurielle at singuliére. Text by Serge Bec Équinoxe.


Carita, Helder, and Cardoso, Homem.Portuguese Gardens.

Living in Portugal. Photography by Jérôme Darblay. Text by Anne de Stoop. New York: Flammarion.

Proper, Datus C. The Last Old Place: A Search Through Portugal. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Slavin, Neal. Portugal. Afterword by Mary McCarthy.

Weelen, Guy. O Azulejo. Casa de Moeda Publisher.